By Lyra Bordelon
The Greenbrier Valley Airport is preparing to respond to another round of inquires from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) about former administration. The questions are a followup after the airport previously submitted responses to FAA inquires in May, detailing concerns from former airport director Stephen Snyder about the administration before him and the airport being in “violation of their Federal Grant Obligations as it relates to operations of the Airport.”
“The airport is continuing to cooperate with the inquiries the Federal Aviation Administration poses to us,” explained Airport Authority Chair Deborah Phillips. “We will do that to the best of our ability.”
After Snyder took over as airport director, he began to investigate previous activities at the airport, ultimately contacting federal authorities. A case was opened by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) before June 2016, when Snyder was deemed the contact on behalf of the airport. However, the investigation does not continue at the federal level – in a letter to Snyder dated September 1, 2017, a victim specialist with the FBI confirmed their role in the investigation was over.
“This letter is to provide you with an update about the case for which you were previously referred to the FBI’s Victim Assistance Program,” reads the letter. “At this time, the FBI has closed its investigation in the above referenced case (Case Number 194B-PG-6752308). The decision to close the case does not lessen the important contribution you made to the investigation. Your assistance and cooperation were greatly appreciated. The investigation has been closed because the United States Attorney’s Office (USAO) has declined to prosecute.”
According to Greenbrier County Commissioner Mike McClung in 2019, the alleged case was passed down to a county-level special prosecutor. In addition, a criminal information filed against McClung also stems from his taking of files from the airport. According to McClung, the files were not viewed by him, but copied and sent to a special prosecutor. At the time of writing, no further information has been made available about the case alleged airport case since January.
Phillips explained personnel would continue to provide the FAA with as much information as possible and needed for their investigation.
“To our knowledge, we have not done anything that we believe has violated any state or federal law,” Phillips said. “Until such time that we find something to that effect, we will continue, but keep in mind that the Internal Revenue Service, the FBI, multiple state auditors have reviewed the records of the Greenbrier Valley Airport and have come to the conclusion that there is nothing there. Our audits have stated we need to do some things to improve our accounting practices, and we have compiled with that request to the best of our ability since 2016.”
The audit findings, as previously reported by the Mountain Messenger’s coverage of Airport Authority meetings, showed the airport did not split their accounting practices as they typically are done. As a result, an outside firm was brought in.
“We don’t have the staff to separate the accounting process, so we have gone out and hired a certified public accounting firm to come in on a monthly basis and review our financial records,” Phillips explained.
In the new request for information, the FAA asked 24 overview followup questions, many of which were split into subsections. These questions include if former airport direction Jerry O’Sullivan and employee Linda Yoak were terminated or if they quit, and what the circumstances of their departure were, and sought information on money transfers to “Oppenheimer” in June 2014, details around reimbursement payments to O’Sullivan, the location of files, identified payments to former employees, lease agreements and payments, and more.
For example, question 24 asks if the termination of O’Sullivan and Yoak had to do with an independent auditor’s 2014 findings.
“Among these findings the independent auditor found that ‘it was determined during this examination that the management of the Authority authorized expenditures that may have been for personal expenses and reimbursements for meals and incidentals above amounts allowed by the Internal Revenue Service.’ Additionally, in the Audit Report for the fiscal year ended June 30, 2014 it was stated that ‘it was determined during our examination that management of the Authority authorized expenditures that may have been for personal expenses.’”
The request also asks three new questions to get the airport authority’s “response to Mr. Snyder’s new allegations and additional information.” Citing a reply to the airport Authority’s response to the previous letter,
“One of these allegations is that the building utilized for GCAA’s FBO was paid for with AIP funding as an Airport Rescue and Fire Fighting structure. With regards to the structure and/or building currently used by the GCAA FBO please indicate whether:
- the FBO is co-located within a structure that is also used for ARFF at LWB;
- AIP funds were used to construct this structure;
- GCAA received approval from the FAA to use part of this structure to host FBO operations. If such approval was received please provide documentary evidence of such approval.Please provide the information and documentation requested under A and B above by no later than January 25, 2021.”
For now, airport staff will continue to provide any information the FAA requests to the best of their ability.
“What the public needs to understand is that anytime any person makes a complaint to an agency, not just to FAA, that agency is required to pursue information that would answer what that compliant would be and the agency with the complaint filed against them, in this case the airport, we also have an obligation to respond to that inquiry,” Phillips said. “This can go on and on and on.”